Federico Fellini is one of the most important filmmakers in the history of cinema, creating such classics as 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, and Amarcord, along with La Strada. Fellini began writing for a humor magazine in Rome in 1939. This led to collaborations with the likes of Cesare Zavottini and Bernardino Zapponi. By 1947 he earned an Academy Award Nomination for his collaboration in writing the screenplay for Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City. This work with Rossellini was essentially an apprenticeship in Italian Neorealism. Fellini was also highly influenced by the cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper, whom Fellini looked to for his visual style and filled thousands of notebooks with sketches from his inspiration.
Literature also had an influence on Fellini as we hear cantos from Dante's Inferno spoken by The Fool. We also see that Dante's literature affected his scenery in La Strada in that Dante's inner ring of hell, where the devil resides is not the hottest, yet frozen over as it takes away any ability for new life to form. We see that after the murder of The Fool, Fellini places Zampano and Gelsomina in the coldness of winter in order to represent the hell that they now are existing in. Fellini, though, believed that translating literature into cinema was simply laziness on the part of the filmmaker, and primarily used literature as inspiration for his imagination. In later years Fellini would also be inspired by the works of Carl Jung as he was seeing a Jungian therapist and reading Memories, Dreams and Reflections. From this was born what is considered his greatest film, 8 1/2. Charlie Chaplin, Laruel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton were also great influences on Fellini's work during this period which stretched from 1961-69.
Fellini would use the Italian landscape in La Strada not as a symbol of the social conditions of the time, as the Neorealists did, but instead as a dreamscape for poetic reasons. Most notably, the sea which Gelsomina is drawn to, and where Zampano cries at the end of the film. The director would also use music very specifically to represent a character. The clear example in this film is that of Gelsomina's theme which she plays on the trumpet, and we later hear sung by the woman hanging sheets near the Medini circus. The song is ethereal and represents the soul that Gelsomina posseses. The song would go on to become popular around the world after the release of La Strada. Fellini's films were based off of the journey of self discovery. He wanted this film to be open ended and poetic, not a literal journey that a character goes on, but a figurative one made to be interpreted by the viewer. Fellini demanded of himself that his images and the music be the tools used to express what is happening in the journey of Zampano, that this is where the true artistry and power of La Strada and any film lies.